Philippine officials to visit Beijing to discuss investment deals, ASEAN summit

Delegation will work out details of US$15 billion worth of investment pledges that China gave to President Duterte in October

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 12:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 3:32am

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is sending a cabinet-level delegation to Beijing this week to meet Vice-Premier Wang Yang and other top Chinese officials to discuss investment deals and his country’s chairmanship of the Association of South East Asian Nations this year.

On the trip on Monday and Tuesday are officials including Duterte’s finance, budget, economic, public works and transport secretaries, according to a statement from the Philippine Department of Finance on Sunday.

The visit comes three months after Duterte visited Beijing to pave the way for what he called a new commercial alliance. He has increased his overtures to China since assuming office last year while berating traditional ally the United States, a sharp change in Philippine foreign policy.

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The Beijing mission to court China and tap loans and business follows Duterte’s “pro-Filipino” policy aimed at reducing the reliance on a US that he says he has lost faith in.

Duterte would make a second China visit in May for a bilateral summit, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said after meeting him in Manila last week. That meeting was just days after Duterte’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Meetings during the Beijing visit would also cover the Philippines’ chairmanship of the 10-member Asean this year, the Department of Finance said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on January 11 that he was confident a code of conduct in the South China Sea between Asean and China could be finished by mid-year.

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Still, the Philippines did file a diplomatic protest with China over its installation last year of anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems on its artificial islands in the disputed waters.

At this week’s meeting, Philippine and Chinese officials would flesh out some US$15 billion worth of investment pledges that China gave to Manila during ­Duterte’s visit in October, the Department of Finance said.

Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi was also in China to “enhance energy cooperation” between the two countries and attract investment in local energy projects, his office said in a separate statement.

Japan’s Abe, who wants to deepen ties with Duterte amid a changing geopolitical landscape, has pledged US$9 billion worth of investment and development aid for the Philippines.